Aalto The Real Modernist

Finnish architect Alvar Aalto was acutely sensitive to a materialist ontology. Odd, maybe, for someone whose work is more often than not, categorised as 'modernist'. He was a modernist, for sure, but in my opinion a modernist who was true to the underlying principles of the movement — a perpetual desire for reformation from within; for change; for modernising — a forward trajectory, a continuum towards an always shifting goal. Then there are the other modernists; the machinists of genericism — put this box anywhere and anywhere will do; their ears inclined towards to rhythm of the post industrial revolution capitalistic machine: give us repetition without any difference.

Aalto, with his Scandinavian sensibility, refused this homogenisation and instead opted for what some have called an 'organic' approach. For Aalto, his buildings were not just 'buildings', they became part of a living, breathing 'organic' environment. The building and the context entangled together in a kind of dance. Perhaps the best place to see this is in the way he played with lighting often mixing natural and artificial lighting together to create a conversation between the natural and built environments — a brief study of the library in Vyborg is a good place to see this.

This fascinating (albeit quite expensive) book contains a wonderful overview of Aalto's work but also has some great essays exploring Aalto's interesting ontology, well wort a read.